Saturday, February 13, 2016

Lookin' for Love: Crossing Paths by Renee Englot

How many of us have sat at a table or in rockers on a porch, listening to our parents tell stories of their courtship? If you are one of those number, count yourself lucky because such stories are a treasure to pass down to future generations. I remember being enthralled of Dad's wild tales of his adventures as he traveled to see our mother in her little English village, stories Mom later told me were mostly Dad's invention. Still, his laughter and joy in telling them, those loving glances that passed between them at those times, made those stories some of my favorite memories.

Our love story today is a true tale, and comes from Canadian storyteller Renee' Englot, a story full of "Canadiana" as she calls it. 

Crossing Paths

It was the summer of 1967.  On your radio, you might have heard the Beatles’ Penny Lane or the Monkees singing Happy Together.  Movie theatres were showing “The Graduate”. Montreal was hosting the World’s Expo.  And all across the Canada people were celebrating the nation's 100th birthday.

Phil Burton was a constable in the RCMP, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and his assignment for the summer was traveling with the Centennial Caravan to small towns in Northern Ontario and Manitoba to celebrate Canada’s centennial.

Carol Andrew was a student at the University of Manitoba.  Her summer job was working for the Manitoba Department of Agriculture, as an extension home economist.  Her assignment involved traveling to local fairs and celebrations to work with 4H groups.

Early in the summer, the Centennial Caravan rolled into Shoal Lake, Manitoba.

That same evening, Carol and her 3 co-workers rolled into Shoal Lake for a 4H rally.  Or rather, they limped in to Shoal Lake.  The car they were driving broke down outside of town.  Members of the Caravan stopped and escorted the ladies into town.  Lo and behold they were headed to the same motel.  In fact, they were double booked at the same motel.  Since the Caravan had checked in earlier, there were no rooms left at the motel, none left in Shoal Lake.  

A gallant officer offered up his room, sure that his roommate wouldn’t protest too much about sleeping on the floor in another room.  

That was all well and good, but the room Carol and her co-workers had been offered was right next to the party room.  

The other small catch was that the aforementioned roommate hadn’t gotten the message that his room was no longer his.  He returned from his galavanting, turned the key in the door and discovered four lovely young women who had given up on the idea of sleep and were getting ready to join the party next door.

Phil thought God had sent him down a lovely surprise.  Carol thought Phil looked handsome in his orange cut off sweatshirt and shorts.

The next day the two compared schedules and discovered that their paths would cross again at the fair in Swan River and several more times throughout the summer.  

At one of the centennial events the two attended, Carol wore an 1867 style dress. She’d made it herself, styled on pictures of her grandmother. She had ringlets in her hair.  Phil thought she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen.  He knew then that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her.  

In the spring of 1968 Carol completed her degree and took a job in Minnedosa.  Phil was transferred to Brandon, just 30 miles away.  

At the New Years Ball, Phil told friends he intended to marry Carol.  On February 7th he got around to telling Carol, or rather, asking her.  She said yes. 

They were married Saturday October 4, 1969 and 46 years later, Carol still thinks Phil is handsome and Phil knows Carol is the most beautiful woman in the world.

Renee Englot says:

As a teen-ager, I began storytelling for children at church and I still enjoy telling Biblical stories. As a teacher I often used story in my lessons. When I did my Master of Arts in Children's Literature, I honed my storytelling skill. For the past five years, I've been working as a professional storyteller, visiting many schools in and around Edmonton, and developing workshops for students, teachers, other storytellers, and corporations. I have told stories to all ages at festivals and cafés across Western Canada, and in the United States. 

Contact information:
Renée Englot
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Looking for Love: Megan Hicks

Next in Looking for Love, a story with a different angle, a tale of looking for love in a place that seems right, but...I'll let storyteller Megan Hicks tell you all about it in her own words.

Love, Honor, Cherish, and Obey

A story of innocence and experience
by Megan Hicks, 2011 (c)

This is a story about how when I was twenty-two I got tangled up with a bank robber. It was in Los Angeles, 1972. 

I met my first ex-husband in church.

I grew up going to church. My mom saw to it that we went to services two, sometimes three times a week. So “church” was nothing new to me. What was new — and exciting — was this exuberant, in-your-face evangelistic approach to church that the media called “The Jesus Movement.” Those of us immersed in it were proud to call ourselves “Jesus freaks.”

My parents lived in Australia at the time, and I was on my own. A college dropout, working part time in a cheese shop, living with friends of friends. Rent free. For the past six months. I knew back when they told to make myself at home, they didn’t mean … permanently. I had overstayed my welcome, and I knew it was time to move on. But what did the Lord want me to move on to? Daily, I prayed for a revelation: My life! My purpose!

And then one Sunday morning I’m sitting there in the little church I went to with about forty other Jesus freaks, looked up from my hymnal, and standing in the pulpit is this blue-eyed stranger. Our pastor had invited him to give his personal testimony.

His name was John. Two years before this, serving a sentence for bank robbery at 
McNeil Island Federal Penitentiary in Puget Sound, he had found the Lord.  He had started a Bible study group, he supervised the prison Sunday school, he acted as inmate liaison with church outreach groups. And he got early parole.

He’d been out for three months. And already he had lost his job, his apartment. He was broke, with no prospects for gainful employment.

He was desperate. So he decided to raise a large amount of money the only way he knew how — armed robbery. And just the night before — about midnight — he was walking down Santa Monica Boulevard on his way to break into a pawn shop and steal a couple of guns…

When at that very moment…

Here comes our pastor — Pastor Kenny — sees this guy walking head down, looking despondent. And Pastor Kenny thinks, “Here’s a soul who needs the gospel message.” So he whips a U, pulls up at the curb, and hollers, “Hey brother, do you know the Lord?!”

There in the pulpit, this guy John told how he fell to his knees right on Santa Monica Boulevard.

“Snatched from the brink of hell!” he cried. “Praise God! I’m a new creation!”

I. Was. Riveted.

John and I got acquainted with each other, and … I found out he dropped out of high school as a sophomore. I dropped out of college as a sophomore. He was unemployed. I was under-employed. He was homeless. Technically, so was I. We had so much in common! Obviously, God had brought us together so we could labor together in the Vineyard of the Lord as man and wife.

Four months later we were married on a Christmas tree farm in Malibu Canyon. I repeated the vows I had heard at every wedding I ever attended: I promised to “love, honor, cherish, and obey” this man.

The first big test of “obey” came a couple of weeks later when he decided since he couldn’t find work in LA, we should move back to Tacoma, where he knew so many people from the churches there.

Obediently, I got busy packing.

But at that time, Washington State was in the middle of a huge depression, and if your only resume was a rap sheet, you didn’t stand a prayer of getting a job.

I worked as a file clerk. John got the occasional guest preaching gig. So for that first year, we lived on minimum wage, love offerings, and food stamps. I found out that it’s hard work being poor.

It was hard work keeping those wedding vows, too. I had no problem with “love, honor, and cherish.” But obey?
 I have never been particularly obedient.

One time he pulled rank on me. He said, “Listen, Jesus said the woman is in subjection to the man.” And before I knew it, I shot back, “No, he didn’t. It was St. Paul. Ephesians 5:22!”

But I did give it my best effort. Because as tough as things were, it was all for a high purpose. For treasures laid up in heaven.

Or so I thought.

Until the day I came home from work unexpectedly early to find my husband and a couple of his old classmates from McNeil Island — men I’d never met — heads bent over some papers, working on…what I soon realized was a plan to raise a lot of money … the only way they knew how.

“Love, honor, cherish, obey…” That did not encompass aiding and abetting armed robbery.

I took off my rose-colored classes, shook off one layer of innocence, packed a suitcase, bought a plane ticket, and got out of town.

About Megan: 

Megan has earned an enviable reputation as a professional storyteller. She was featured as a New Voice at the National Storytelling Festival in 2011, and her credits range from small venues in rural America, to regional stages throughout the United States, and international programs on three continents, mostly recently in China.

Her awards include a Parents' Choice® Silver for the CD, "What Was Civil About That War…" which was also a 2005 Finalist for an Audies® award in the category of Best Original Work. She received the Parents' Guide to Children's Media Award for "Groundhogs Meet Grimm," a collection of her original parodies that was also tapped for Honors by NAPPA.

Megan is a sought-after workshop presenter and seminar leader, with credits at Florida StoryCamp, the Northlands Storytelling Conference, Sharing the Fire, the National Storytelling Conference, the Virginia Library Association, 

megan hicks   
storytelling empress::origami swami

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Looking for Love: The Three Laughs by Doug Lipman

Welcome to Looking for Love, a series of stories by professional storytellers all about that elusive, tricky, wonderful, touching and sometimes humorous emotion that drive so much of life. For the next few days I will be posting these stories from many traditions and cultures to get us in the mood--or not!--for Valentine's Day this coming Sunday. 

We'll start with a story from Doug Lipman from the Hasidic tradition, a tale of mature love and joy, from the stories of the mystical Jewish rabbi, The Baal Shem Tov.

The Three Laughs

adapted by Doug Lipman

The Baal Shem Tov
Once, the disciples of the Baal Shem Tov decided to prepare him a special Sabbath. They worked for days to make sure that everything would be just as it should be, so that the spirit of the Sabbath would descend as it never had before.

At last, a few minutes before sundown on Friday night, they were all seated around a long table with the Baal Shem Tov at the place of honor at the head. The disciple who had been chosen for the special honor of lighting the Sabbath candles stood up and began to light the candles and say the blessing.
"Ha! Ha-ha!" Suddenly, the Baal Shem Tov gave a loud laugh.

The disciple lighting the candles looked around to see what was wrong--if there was something amiss with his clothing, perhaps--but everything was as it should be.

Later, they began the Sabbath meal. They gave the Baal Shem Tov the first bowl of the soup that they had labored so long over.

He tasted it. "Heh, heh, heh, heh!" He laughed and laughed.

The disciples were appalled. They rushed to taste the soup but there was nothing in it that tasted...humorous.

Still later, they were singing the Sabbath songs.
    Oh, what strength a righteous woman has!
    There is no treasure rarer than this!
    Happy is the heart that relies on her,
    For such a heart can lack for nothing....
    Yai, dai, dai, dai, dai, dai, dai, dai....
As they sang, the Baal Shem Tov began to laugh and laugh, as though he could not contain himself.
It was the custom of the disciples that, on Saturday night, after the spirit of the Sabbath had departed, they would choose one question between them, and present it to the Baal Shem Tov.

This Saturday, there was no debate as to what question they would ask. "Holy master, why did you laugh during the Sabbath--three times?"

In answer, the Baal Shem Tov said, "Come with me."

All the disciples crowded into the Baal Shem Tov's carriage. He drew the curtains over the windows, and they began to travel swiftly.

Several hours later, when he opened the curtains, they were in a distant village. None of them had ever been there before.

The Baal Shem Tov went to the leaders of the village. "Bring everyone to the village square. Now."

When the Baal Shem Tov stood looking out over that crowd of faces, he said, "There is still one family missing."

After a few minutes, the people realized, "It must be the old bookbinder and his wife. They live on the edge of town; they must not have gotten the word."

When this old man and this old woman entered the village square, and the old man saw who it was who was calling for him, he began to wring his hands. "Oh, Holy Master. I know I have committed a great sin. I only ask forgiveness."

"Bookbinder, tell my disciples and these people gathered here how you spent your Sabbath."

Fearfully, the old man glanced at the illustrious students of the Baal Shem Tov and began to speak. "I am an old bookbinder. In my youth, I could earn enough that we had what we needed during the week, and something special to greet the Sabbath. 

"But as I have grown older, there has been less and less. Finally, this Sabbath--for the first time--we had no Sabbath candles--and only a few crusts of bread for a Sabbath meal. My wife was determined that we would observe the Sabbath as well as we were able. And so, just before sundown, she went through the motions of lighting candles that were not there.

"As she did, I saw...a flash of light. And I understood for the first time that the light that I had thought came only from the candles was also coming from her. I shouted out, 'I love you'--in the middle of the holy blessing!

"I got control of myself, and went back to observing the Sabbath with due respect. But then later, we were beginning our humble meal. We had only warmed water for soup. But I tasted it. I felt...nourished. At that moment, I realized that the nourishment--which all these years I had thought came only from the soup--actually came also from her, from our being together through so many Sabbaths.

"And before I realized what I was doing, I jumped up. I kissed her! Shocked at my own behavior, I sat back down. I stayed in my seat properly until later, when we sang the Sabbath songs.
    Oh, what strength a righteous woman has!
    There is no treasure rarer than this!
"Singing these words, I realized what a great strength she was in my life.
    Happy is the heart that relies on her,
    For such a heart can lack for nothing....
"Suddenly, I knew that, in spite of our great poverty, while I had her in my life, I lacked for nothing.
"And then, before I knew what I was doing, I jumped up. I grabbed her by the arms. We began to sing and dance together.
    Yai, dai, dai, dai, dai, dai, dai, dai;
    Yai, dai, dai, dai, dai, dai, dai, dai....
"At last, I got control of myself and sat back down.

"Holy master, I know I have defiled the Sabbath. Please, tell me: what must I do to be forgiven?"

The Baal Shem Tov looked at his disciples. "When this man and this woman spent their Sabbath in such deep and holy love, I was there with them, and I shared in their joy. And when he spoke his love for that woman, not only I but the angels in heaven heard--and they smiled. And when he got up and kissed that woman, acting on that deep love-the angels in heaven saw them, and they laughed.

"And when the two of them joined their hands and sang and danced their joy, the angels themselves began to sing and to dance. And the Eternal Heart itself heard them, and it was warmed.

"On a Sabbath of such perfect joy, who wouldn't laugh?"

My version of this story--a re-write of a famous Hasidic tale--has appeared on my audiotape, The Forgotten Story: Tales of Wise Jewish Men.

from the website
About today's storyteller:

Many of you enjoyed and appreciated Doug's article on facing despair in a new year, Hope Is Not For The Weak Of Heart

In 1970, Doug Lipman was a discouraged teacher of very resistant adolescents. One day, he told them a story. To his amazement, they did not resist, but became deeply involved. Ever since, Doug has worked to understand exactly how storytelling evokes engagement and cooperation, and to help others learn to use storytelling for personal, interpersonal, and group transformation. 

Contact Doug at

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.
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